Full Cold Moon – 29 December 2020

The last full moon for 2020 known as Cold Moon, Ice Moon, Wolf Moon… possibly has other names too.

Focus Stacked - 30 Frames, ZS Ps | Canon M50m2, Super Telephoto Lens at 800mm | Estee White Photography | Green Island, NY | 29 Dec 2020

Full Cold Moon 100% Illumination

My setup – Canon M50 mark II, with the super telephoto 420-800mm lens.
It took me a little while to find decent focus with this manual focus lens and handholding was a bit of a challenge that’s why I brought over my canon wireless remote shutter and I secured my camera & the huge lens on my amazon basics tripod.

Focus stacked – 30 frames, JPGs stacked with Zerene Stacker, post processed in Photoshop – Fs.
I tried also stacking the RAW files with Photoshop & Affinity Photo but the results were not so good.

Focus stacking the moon works a little bit different than the typical focus stacking done with macro photography.
With macro photography focus stacking is done because of the shallow DOF.
You are basically forced to do it, because only small part of the image is in focus.

This doesn’t happen with larger objects.
When photographing larger objects, especially further in the distance,
there is no shallow DOF – your subject is in focus  pretty much all over.
But then there is the essence of depth – meaning that there are still different focal planes,
but they usually cover a lot larger area of the photo.

For example – imagine you are taking a portrait of a human’s face further in the distance with a telephoto lens.
You know that you can have one shot where the eyes are primarily in focus, or another – where the nose is primarily in focus. The rest of the subject is not  completely out of focus, but it’s just not as sharp.
And that is just the human face, the moon has a lot tore depth to it.

With my manual focus lens I am able to change the focus to capture slightly different depths of the subject.
Here is a photo comparison, where you can see that the focus is slightly different in each photo.
Some may argue that this is just going in and out of focus but I hope that you can see that
all the photos are in focus – there isn’t a photo out of focus.
Don’t forget to view full screen.

Full Moon December 29, 2020

Comparison of 3 shots of the moon with slightly different focus, used for focus stacking the moon | Estee White Photography

The difference is not huge and sometimes difficult to spot when just looking at the photo,
but when you are actually looking through the viewfinder you can see it clearly.
You do no have to take my word for it – get the manual super telephoto lens and try it yourself.

It is possible that this is perceived focal difference caused by slight miss alignment of the optics of the lens
– but the cause doesn’t change the effect – I still do get images which I can use for focus stacking.

You will see that as you move the focus ring – the moon doesn’t go straight from – in focus to out of focus.
There are several in between stages where the focus is there but is capturing different depth layers, exactly because the moon is so big and because it has a lot of depth, even though it appears much flatter to the human eye from such distance.

People went out of their way to tell me that what I am doing is noise reduction stacking and not focus stacking.

Read More About Noise Reduction Stacking


“The stacking technique makes use of the random nature of noise. By making a series of images without moving the camera, every single image will have a slightly different noise pattern. When combining these images in a smart way, it is possible to cancel out the noise, without loss of detail. Because we make use of the random noise in a series of images, it may be clear this technique does not work with a series of copied images.

The downside of this method is the limited use of the technique. It needs a stationary scenery, without (a lot) of movement, and you need to shoot on tripod – although it might be possible to shoot without it in high speed mode and aligning the images afterwards. It all depends on the situation.” Source


Yes of course noise reduction stacking happens as well during the processing,
but the image is still focus stacked since I am capturing different focal planes.
The final result is a focus stacked and noise reduction stacked image.

When you are working with shallow depth of field you see the results of focus stacking a lot more vividly.
But that’s doesn’t mean that those are the only situations when it can be applied.
I really do not see the point in arguing whether it was done or not,
or deciding that it wasn’t done just because wasn’t required…
You can do focus stacking even if the focal difference seems very subtle.
If it help’s you get a better final image that’s all that matters 🙂



Mentioned Products ↓

Canon EOS M50 Mark II Body
– $599.99

420-800mm Telephoto Lens – $109.99

Canon Wireless Remote Control BR-E1 – $40.00

Amazon Basics Camera Tripod
– $17.49

4 comments… add one
  • Dbur Dec 30, 2020, 10:17 am

    Try merge to HDR pro in Photoshop with NO ghost removal and see if you get an equivalent noise reduction. Has produced great results for me on shorter stacks. This is really a noise reduction stack, not a focus stack.

    • Estee White Dec 30, 2020, 4:48 pm

      Thank you for your comment 🙂 I have tried HDR pro in Photoshop before and it works better when there was exposure bracketing done to the frames. I will give it a go with this stack just to see what happens and maybe I will add te results to the blog post. This is a focus stack and I am adding more details about it to the blog post now.

  • DEHAY9 Jan 4, 2021, 4:59 pm

    Thank you!!1